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FBI agents searched the homes and office tied to a NewPort Beach investment firm on Tuesday Feb. 27, 2024 (YouTube screengrab from KCAL-TV)
FBI agents searched the homes and office tied to a NewPort Beach investment firm on Tuesday Feb. 27, 2024 (YouTube screengrab from KCAL-TV)

Armed with search warrants, FBI agents raided the Orange County homes of two real estate investment executives this week, seizing boxes of materials as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, agents descended on the Newport Beach and Laguna Beach residences of AB Capital’s co-owners, said Bryan Werlemann, a wealth manager who alleges he was defrauded out of about $2.7 million in 2018 as part of an elaborate Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the company.

The raids lasted several hours, with FBI agents using a bullhorn to announce their presence to those inside the homes, Werlemann said.

In a video broadcast on KCAL ɫ̳, the FBI agents could be seen carting boxes and bags of evidence from one of the dwellings.

Laura Eimiller, spokesperson for the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, confirmed that the searches are connected to an ongoing criminal investigation but declined to provide further details.

Neither of AB Capital’s two principals could be immediately reached for comment Thursday and information was not available on whether they face criminal charges.

Werlemann said he has been in contact with the FBI and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and estimated that more than 100 victims across the country, many of them elderly, have been swindled out of about $100 million.

The investigation stems from an involuntary bankruptcy foisted upon AB Capital in 2022 by disgruntled investors, he added.

A civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court connected to the bankruptcy names AB Capital principals Joshua R. Pukini and Ryan J. Young as defendants.

The lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, and other offenses seeks at least $50 million in damages.

“Prior to bankruptcy, debtor and its principals breached their fiduciary duties by looting and fraudulently transferring debtor’s assets, misappropriating debtor’s business opportunities, and defrauding creditors, the complaint says.

AB Capital is described in the suit as a real estate investment company that provides loans and then syndicates and sells fractional interest in those loans to investors.

Werlemann said bankruptcy proceedings include the liquidation of real estate properties to repay investors.

“It looks like there are going to be cents on the dollar when everything is done” with the bankruptcy, he said. “The civil suit is trying to unwind the tangled mess.”

The complaint alleges Pukin and Young refused to turn over AB Capital’s accounting records and destroyed documents, to the “shock and utter amazement” of a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.

The trustee’s examination of AB Capital’s electronic and hard files on Oct 7, 2022, revealed there were no files of any kind left on computers other than 80 files found in the computer “trash,” the complaint alleges. Additionally, large filing cabinets in a conference room at AB Capital’s headquarters were allegedly empty.

It is also alleged that Pukini lied about the disposition of AB Capital funds and misappropriated or fraudulently transferred proceeds.

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